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'Covid hit Messi hard' - Argentina boss Scaloni explains star's absence from World Cup qualifiers

5:01 AM GMT+8 27/01/2022
Lionel Messi Argentina 2021-22
The 34-year-old will not play against Chile and Colombia after making a late return to PSG following the festive period

Lionel Messi's absence from the Argentina squad for the latest World Cup qualifiers owes to his struggles in getting over a bout of Covid-19, coach Lionel Scaloni explained on Wednesday

Messi was left off the list of players to take on Chile and Colombia in the coming week, with Argentina's place at Qatar 2022 already assured.

He has barely played any football since December, having come down with the virus just after Christmas.

What was said?

"Clearly we would love to have Messi here with us," Scaloni explained to reporters on Wednesday.

"I spoke to him and he told me that Covid hit him hard. It is key for him to get well, and that is why I decided that the best option was for him to stay at his club."

Messi nevertheless made an appearance at the conference from across the Atlantic, popping up to say "Greetings everyone" on the Instagram live broadcast.

Who will captain Argentina in Messi's absence?

As well as the captain, Argentina will be without their coach in Chile as Scaloni's own positive covid test precludes him from travel.

He has already chosen the man who will wear the armband in Messi's place: Angel Di Maria, who also received the honour in November against Uruguay with Leo on the bench.

"The question of the armband is logical enough," Scaloni added. "Angel has been in the national team for many years and he is a guy who transmits a lot to his team-mates, he is loved and that's all there is to it.

"In that, we are in no doubt at all."

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